The gospel that we just heard is one of those that makes you really wonder who Jesus is? What kind of person says something as outrageous as ‘If any man comes to me without hating (miseo) his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’ (Luke 14:26-27) This seems to be the opposite of what Jesus says elsewhere, like in the Sermon on the Mountain, where he says ‘You have heard it said, love your neighbour and hate (miseo) your enemy, but I say to you Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:43-44) The word miseo is very strong – it is where you get the word misogynist (hatred of women) or misanthrope (hatred of humanity). Of course, in part it is classically a semitic usage that makes comparisons between two objects via a strong contrast rather than a simple comparison.
The teaching that Jesus gives here, even though it is addressed to the crowds, is meant for those who had followed for some time, rather than new disciples. Jesus wants to bring true freedom to these disciples, who then like now, can be so easily distracted by then many choices available. True freedom and hence joy comes when we are able to establish proper priorities – where Jesus is placed first and central in our lives. Then, and only then, can all the other things in our lives – including our family and friends be included. If we want to experience joy in our lives, then place Jesus first, then others, then you.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 5.30pm (8’38”)
Sunday 23, Year C. Luke 14:25-33